One of the most common questions asked of a writer, and one almost guaranteed to trigger that deer in the headlights look, is where she gets her ideas from. Some authors can give specific answers to that question. “I was watching a disaster movie and thought, what if those two were trapped, thinking they’d die and had sex without ever knowing each other’s names and she got pregnant.” Others use humor to deflect. “I find them on the clearance rack at the department store”.
I fall into that group of authors who draw a blank and wish there was an easy answer. I don’t want to say I don’t know because I like to pretend I have a little control over what’s going on my head, at least. But I really don’t. Sometimes a snippet of dialogue will pop in my head. Or an opening scene. Maybe the character. There’s neither rhyme nor reason and all I can do is keep hoping if there’s a Story Idea Fairy, that she doesn’t stop coming around.
But with NO PLACE TO HIDE, I had a head start. Jack Donovan and Isabelle Arceneau were introduced in the third book in the series, NO SURRENDER, so I knew who the characters for the fourth book would be. I knew their backstory.
The problem was their now story. I needed a plot for Jack and Isabelle’s romance to play out in, but the Story Idea Fairy was apparently on vacation. I got wrapped up in writing my Kowalski series of contemporary romances, but the fourth Devlin Group book was always turning over in the back of my mind, wanting to be told. Readers asked for it. I wanted to write it. But every idea I brainstormed ended up in the trash.
Then one night, my husband and older son were talking about guns. My son is a lover of all things military history and he was talking about an old Russian revolver that, thanks to its sealed firing system, was one of the few revolvers in history that could take a sound suppressor (silencer). The Nagant M1895 was very distinctive and was used by the Imperial Russian Army, the Bolshevik secret police and Viet Cong assassins, among others.
And, just like that, a villain came alive in my head. For reasons I won’t spoil, he’s a killer for hire who most believe is nothing but an urban legend. He’s an assassin with a perfect record and a Nagant M1895, and he wants Isabelle Arceneau dead. Because she’s no dummy, the first person Isabelle calls after the police is Jack Donovan, bringing him back into her life. And, boom, I had a book.
So NO PLACE TO HIDE came from eavesdropping on a conversation between my husband and my son. It was a random piece of information that captured my imagination and gave me those last edge pieces I needed before I could start filling in the rest of the puzzle.
Eavesdropping is generally considered a social no-no, but it can be a vital skill for an author because sometimes it’s where the ideas come from. I’d love to hear about any juicy tidbits you’ve overheard while eavesdropping (minus any identifying details, of course)!